Galápagos Unbound's “Best of Ecuador” multisport trip is a fantastic way to experience the flora, fauna, people, and activities that make the country one of the most fascinating destinations in the world. This hands-on itinerary allows you to immerse yourself completely in the vibrant culture of the region, unlike most cruise-based tours. Unique to this tour is the mix of people-to-people interaction with native Ecuadorians as well as up-close wildlife observation in one of the most protected areas on the entire globe.
The itinerary is carefully-crafted to include the perfect balance of activity and relaxation. Land-based highlights include touring the historical city of Quito, shopping the world-renowned Otavalo Market, visiting a local school and its students, and spending time with a well-known artisan who has devoted her life to teaching her craft. Outside of the cities and villages are picturesque landscapes that are best-appreciated by hike or kayak. Activities include paddling San Pablo Lake, snorkeling with the magnificent marine life of the Galápagos Islands, hiking along the ridge of a volcano, and learning from experienced guides about the unique geology, vegetation, and wildlife of the region. Gaze in awe at the breathtaking view of the Andes Mountains, befriend a giant Galápagos tortoise, swim with sea lions, and watch playful blue-footed boobies dive for fish – all in one trip!
At the end of each fulfilling day, there is opportunity for rest and relaxation. We explore various regions of Ecuador by day and return to the creature comforts of local hotels each night. Our guides are local to the region and are wonderful resources for history, modern culture, fun facts, and any questions you have along the way.
- Explore sites of historical and cultural significance, from colonial Quito to the stunning Galápagos Islands.
- Get up-close and personal with sea lions, giant Galápagos tortoises, volcanoes, and a multitude of unique species.
- Immerse yourself in a sacred and well-preserved culture, where you’re welcomed into the home of a local family and a village school.
- Traverse fragile, yet rugged landscapes by day and rest in comfortable locally-owned lodges by night.
- Share your adventure with knowledgeable, local guides.
Meet and Greet City Tour of Quito, Sundial Equator Project, Hacienda Cusin
Awake, gather your luggage, and depart your hotel for a morning meeting in the heart of Colonial Quito. Meet your guide and fellow travelers for a brief meeting in the lobby of Hotel Patio Andaluz before embarking on the day’s adventures.
Your adventure begins with a gentle walk along the cobblestoned streets of Colonial Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Founded on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Architectural structures including St. Augustine Convent, La Compania de Jesus, Municipal Building, Presidential Palace, Archbishop’s Palace, and Independence Plaza are astonishing indications of Ecuador’s history and culture. You will also see one of the greatest religious structures of the New World: The Church of San Francisco.
Next, we make our way to a sundial located precisely on the equator in one of the most fertile valleys in the region. Here, an astral-archeological expert will share knowledge about how Ecuador has 12 hours of daylight throughout the entire year. Later this afternoon, we drive approximately 45 minutes to Hacienda Cusin, a restored 17th century Andean estate. At 8,500 feet above sea level, the quaint hotel looks like a picture from a postcard with its lush courtyards and cobblestone pathways. Marvel in the vibrant décor and breathe in the serene view of the Andes in the distance as the day comes to a close.
Angla Settlement, Zuleta, Embroidery Artisans
This morning, we travel to the small Angla settlement, where we have the opportunity to learn about modern educational culture from local students. We will spend time speaking with local school children, learning about their background and culture while helping them with their daily school activities.
Next, we begin an easy-to-moderate 7.5 mile hike through the area’s cattle farms, pastures, hills, and eucalyptus forests. During the 2.5-hour hike, we will likely have the chance to stop and speak with locals. In some cases, they choose to accompany us on our journey! We continue to walk until we reach the stunning landscapes of Zuleta, a town known for high-quality handicrafts. We are warmly-welcomed into the home of a local family of high-quality embroidery artisans, who will happily show us their craft. At the end of the day, we drive back to our accommodations at the Hacienda Cusin for a comfortable night of rest.
Activity: Hike Angla to Zuleta
Distance: 7.5 miles
Approximate Time: 2.5-3 hours
Kayak San Pablo Lake, Indigenous Women Project, Otavalo Indigenous Market
Rise and enjoy breakfast with coffee or tea as we prepare for a morning of paddling near the picturesque Andes Mountains. We drive to our starting point, San Pablo Lake, which is located close to the “Father Mountain” of Ecuador’s indigenous mythology – Imbabura Volcano. You may choose to paddle a kayak or a stand up paddleboard (SUP), and our qualified guide will give a safety talk before we get started.
This afternoon, we drive to the village of Peguche to visit an elderly Otavaleno woman, Matico Lema. She has devoted the majority of her life to helping other local woman hone and develop traditional Ecuadorian skills, and she will show us how she prepare food, weaves, and dye textiles.
Lastly, we will visit Otavalo: the largest, most famous handicraft fair in South America. Indigenous weavers from Otavalo and the surrounding areas sell their products in the market, and artisans from all across the country bring sweaters, ponchos, blankets, scarves, shawls, woven textiles, tagua carved figurines, Andean musical instruments, paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and more. We will spend some time meandering through the market before heading back to our accommodations in Quito.
Activity: Kayak San Pablo Lake
Distance: 2.5 nautical miles
Approximate Time: 2.5 hours
Flight to Galapagos, San Cristóbal Island, Hike Frigate Hill, Snorkel Darwin’s Bay
Today, we travel to one of the greatest wildlife destinations in the world, the Galápagos Islands! This morning, we transfer from our hotel to the airport in Quito, where we check in and fly to San Cristóbal Island in the Galápagos Archipelago. You are greeted by our naturalist guide who accompanies us to our hotel for lunch and gearing up for afternoon exploration.
After lunch, we visit the Cerro Tijeretas Environmental Center to learn about the fascinating volcanic geology of the islands. We also learn about San Cristóbal’s history, including the 1835 arrival of Charles Darwin, his theories and findings, and other fun facts about the history of the island.
We then hike Frigate Hill, which is rich with stunning coastal views dotted with frigatebirds, also known as “the pirates of the seas.” As we descend, we stop to snorkel with sea turtles and sea lions in Darwin’s Bay. We then continue to Carola Beach, where we are able to stop and enjoy the sunset.
Snorkel Kicker Rock, Kayak Puerto Baquerizo - Manglesito
We begin our day with a relaxed 30-minute sailboat ride to Kicker Rock, which is also known as Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion). This formation holds an intriguing history, as it is formed by the remains of a lava cone eroded by the sea. Vibrant fish surround the natural phenomenon, making it a wonderful place for snorkeling.
After a brief snorkel session, we kayak from Manglesito to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of Galápagos. We paddle for approximately 3 hours, covering 4 nautical miles. On this path, we pass Lobos Island and other coastal areas that serve as fantastic photo opportunities for blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and beautiful flora.
Activity: Sea Kayak from Puerto Baquerizo to Manglesito
Distance 4-6.5 nautical miles
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging (depends on water conditions)
Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
San Cristóbal to Isabela, Flamingo Lagoon, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, Hike the Wetlands
This morning, we begin by transferring to the airport to catch a small plane and fly from San Cristóbal to Isabela. Upon arrival in Isabela, we enjoy lunch and leisurely explore the island via a boardwalk that spans atop marshlands and humedales – brackish lagoons that provide a habitat for marine iguanas, flamingos, and numerous birds. We continue along wooden walkways that lead to the giant Galápagos tortoises breeding center.
Recovering the giant tortoise population has been a priority of the Galápagos National Park, and their immense recovery efforts have heeded incredible results. More than 2,000 giant Galápagos tortoises have been bred and released into the wild in just a few years. We spend time with these incredible creatures before we move on to a walk along the beach, which brings us through town and back to our hotel. Here, you are free to take a swim, explore town, or relax on your own.
Activity: Hike the wetlands of Isabela
Distance: 2 miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Hike Sierra Negra and Volcano Chico
Today, we begin by driving approximately one hour to the highlands of Isabela. On the commute, notice a significant difference between environments as weather and vegetation begins to change. We begin our hike on a path that leads us to the edge of the Sierra Negra volcano, which remains active to this day. The most recent eruption occurred in 2005, and deposited a new layer of volcanic lava on the landscape. It has the second-largest caldera in the world, spanning approximately 6.5 miles.
We continue our walk to Volcano Chico, where we will see its unique lava formations and learn about different types of lava. Steam rises from cracks beneath our feet as we ponder how organisms can adapt and grow in such conditions. From here, we can also see surrounding volcanoes and islands.
Activity: Hike Sierra Negra and Volcano Chico
Distance: 11 miles
Approximate Time: 6 hours
Hike Wall of Tears, Snorkel Concha Perla
Enjoy a hearty breakfast before we begin today’s hike to the Wall of Tears, a 25-meter lava rock wall built by prisoners during penal colonial times in Ecuador. Many locals claim they can still hear cries of prisoners coming from the wall. In addition to learning about the haunting history of the wall, there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing. Throughout our hike, be on the lookout for fiddler crabs, finches, and giant Galápagos tortoises in black mangroves.
We sit down for a light lunch before we head to our afternoon snorkel spot: Concha de Perla. This calm, shallow bay boasts crystal clear water and, with luck, sea lions and Galápagos penguins! After our snorkel, we make our way back to our hotel where the evening is yours for exploration or relaxation.
Activity: Hike Wall of Tears
Distance: 4 miles
Approximate Time: 3 hours
Speed Boat Isabela to Santa Cruz, Visit Giant Tortoises, Kayak Academy Bay to Punta Estrada
Today, we begin with a comfortable 2-hour speed boat ride to the island of Santa Cruz. Upon arrival, we have time to relax before we begin our journey to a private farm that prioritizes conservation of native and endemic vegetation for the habitat of gigantic Galápagos tortoises. As we visit this farm, we have plenty of opportunity to marvel at the tortoise in its natural splendor. Their dome-shaped shell is often seen partially-submerged in mud ponds, in an effort to combat skin parasites and regulate body temperature. Once we are finished at the farm, we continue our exploration to the volcanic origins of the island by journeying through a lava tunnel.
Next, we drive back to our hotel and gear up for an afternoon of paddling. As we paddle from Academy Bay to Punta Estrada, look for blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas resting on the shoreline cliffs! Here, we are able to kayak near mangroves that are home to golden rays, sally lightfoot crabs, and lava herons. A nearby tranquil canal is lined with prickly pear opuntia cactus and resting common noddy birds.
Activity: Sea Kayak
Distance: 2.6 nautical miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Puerto Ayora to Baltra, Flight to Guayaquil/Quito
Awake to a tranquil breakfast before catching our transfer across the island of Santa Cruz to Baltra’s airport. We catch a flight at Baltra’s former US Navy airport back to Guayaquil or Quito. Upon arrival, we arrange luggage and transfer to the hotel of your choosing.
Extend Your Trip: You may be able to fly home this day but many will choose to stay another night on the mainland or even extend their trip to Machu Picchu.
If you are to stay, we suggest booking the Wyndham Hotel in either Quito or Guayaquil.
*Itinerary subject to change due to Galápagos National Park regulations and restrictions.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Dec 24, 2017 to Jan 02, 2018||$4,599£0€0$0$0||$4,599£0€0$0$0||BOOK NOW|
Dates in bold are confirmed departures.
If the dates posted do not work for your group please just ask - we can set up alternitive dates for groups of 4 or more.
-Tour leader guide and Galapagos naturalist guide
-Double occupancy in hotels
-Meals per the itinerary
-Kayak and camping equipment
-Transfer by boat from Isabela to Puerto Ayora
-Snorkel gear and wetsuit
-Tips for carriers and porters
What’s Not Included
-Round-trip international flight to Guayaquil
-Internal flights, entrance fees, and taxes
-Tips for guides, tour leader, and staff
-International Airport Tax
-Insurance of any type
-Cost of hospitalization and evacuation (if necessary)
Images & Videos
FAQ & More
The Galapagos Islands (or Archipelago de Colon)are a Province of Ecuador located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian coast and are located directly on the equator.
Visit this page for a month-to-month detail on weather. Because the Galapagos Islands are on the equator, it’s warm most of the year. The warmest season is usually January to April and average temperatures range from a low of 70F/22C to around of 84F/31C. This is also the “wet season” and there may be afternoon thundershowers. During a severe El Nino year, it’s more likely to rain at any time of day. April to December is considered the “dry season” and is cooler, with average temperatures ranging from around 68F/19C to 82F/27C. At this time of year it is not uncommon to have the "garua" (misty rain) early in the morning and in the highlands of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Our experience is that the time of year doesn’t make a lot of difference in terms of the amount of rain as there isn’t enough to impact your trip too much.
Whenever your schedule allows! Because it’s on the equator, air temperatures don’t change a lot. However water temperature does fluctuate as much as ten degrees during the year. The cooler Humboldt Current comes up from Antarctica from May to September/October and the sea is cooler and tends to be rougher at this time of year. Cooler water temperatures mean you generally see more sea life because there is more food for the animals that depend on the planktons and other sea nourishment. From November to April, the cooler Panama Current flows from the north and brings warmer water. The sea tends to be calmer at this time of year. If you’re going on our land-based tour then rough water is less of a concern. If you’re doing a cruise, and you are prone to seasickness, you might want to consider coming in the November to April time frame.
For a month to month comparison of temperatures and wildlife activity check out the Galapagos Calendar.
From the U.S. and Canada there are daily flights via Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Miami, to both Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador. If you are short on time flying directly to and from Guayaquil may save you time as our Galapagos Unbound trip begins in Guayaquil.
We do not arrange international air travel but we do have a great air travel specialist we refer you to if you’d like.
Yes. When you book a tour with us we add your Ecuador flights to your invoice. Flights to the Galapagos depart several times daily from both Quito and Guayaquil aboard Boeing 737’s or Airbus 320’s or similar. Our partners in Ecuador hold space on the flights so we are sure to be able to accommodate you (as long as you sign up far enough in advance).
Ecuador uses the US dollar which was adopted as the official currency in 2000. Be sure to bring cash bills in good condition because bills with markings or tears won’t be accepted. There are also ATM machines in the larger towns. It’s a good idea to alert your bank that you’ll be traveling to Ecuador so they don’t stop the transactions.
We have been running trips in Ecuador since 1992 and know the country well. We have plenty of ideas for extending your trip whether it be to the Amazon, the Cloud Forest, the highlands in the north or south, or whatever might be your special interest. We can also arrange extensions to Peru and Machu Picchu.
There are a lot of arrangements to be made for a custom trip like our Galapagos Unbound active adventure. It’s very helpful with our planning if you book four to 12 months in advance. However, if you can’t plan that far ahead, then it’s usually not a problem to book up to about two months in advance. If you find yourself looking for last-minute space just call us and check!
There is an opportunity for snorkeling almost every day on this trip and the underwater life is a true highlight of visiting the Galapagos. Our trip offers more opportunities than most, and on some days we stop at two or three locations to snorkel.
If you’ve never been snorkeling we highly recommend you practice before the trip. It’s best to buy your own mask and snorkel (around $20-$45) so that you have a good fit and for better hygiene. Fins are less necessary but are nice to have in terms of going a little faster.
Yes it is however if you have a favorite mask or fins, you might enjoy bringing your own.
No, a wetsuit is not necessary, but most people appreciate the extra warmth.
There are one or two opportunities on our trip to arrange for a separate scuba diving experience at an extra cost. Contact us for details.